We’ll not mince words here: George Pelecanos is incredible. The prolific author, script writer, and television producer (and let’s not forget PEN/Faulkner Board Member) is beloved by students and Writers in Schools instructors for a reason: because the man cares about students and he cares about literature.
On Wednesday morning, Pelecanos visited Cardozo High School to talk to PEN/Faulkner Board President Frazier O’Leary’s AP English students about his novel The Cut. Rather than give you the play-by-play, we thought we’d bring you a special edition of the WinS Blog, in which we give you some of our favorite moments from the morning.
“It’s always kind of scary to look at that blank page, but you sort of have to treat this [writing] like a job.”
On careers & other career opportunities:
“I sold women’s shoes for many years, and I loved that job.”
“I didn’t quit my day job until I was 42-years-old.”
“I’m not going to retire. I know I won’t.”
On the elements of his writing he likes best:
“I’m not crazy about writing violence […] I kinda like the funny stuff.”
On his screenwriting for HBO’s award-winning series The Wire:
(Editor’s note: Pelecanos’s first episode as a writer for the series came in season one, in which he wrote the death of Wallace. For anybody who’s seen the show… um… ouch.)
Pelecanos’s favorite movie?
“The Wild Bunch. 1969. Sam Peckinpah.”
with the caveat that the “Best American film” must be taken as a pair: “The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II“
Clearly, Pelecanos was engaging for the students, but the students kept the author on his toes, as well. Having read the novel (which tells the story of Iraq veteran and D.C. native son Spero Lucas after he returns to the District and finds work as an investigator for an attorney), the students were ready and willing to ask Pelecanos a number of questions about research, race, adoption, music, the particular social and geographic tics of Washington, murder, and any number of thematic elements addressed in the book.
We were in a temporary classroom trailer under florescent lights. A block away, the main campus of Cardozo was midway through an enormous renovation. It was a beautiful autumn morning, 7:45 a.m., and everybody in the room wanted to be there.